"Look at all the stuff they did with green screen," he says. "Can you imagine what they'd do with the new technology, when they have the run of things?"

Slyman Brothers: Try Us, You'll Like Us
Bob Slyman Jr. says hardly a day goes by without a customer walking into one of his family's appliance stores and asking about the company's television ads from the 1970s and '80s.

The commercial that launched them all first appeared on St. Louis airwaves in 1972 and featured Slyman's father, Bob, and uncle Harry Slyman superimposed as if they were sitting atop the Gateway Arch.

Bob and Harry Slyman.
Bob and Harry Slyman.
A very early Steve Mizerany commercial.
A very early Steve Mizerany commercial.

"Thanks for making us tops in town," the brothers announced before ending the spot with the company's tagline: "Try us, you'll like us."

Slyman Jr. says his father and uncle came up with the idea for that first commercial themselves, and it didn't take long for the ad to pay off — big time.

"They opened the business in 1965, the year the Arch was completed, so it was a natural tie-in," he says. "Within a year or so of running those spots business increased 20 to 30 percent."

So successful were the commercials that the brothers nearly did away completely with all other forms of advertising. Over the years they'd create dozens more commercials, filming the first few in the studios at Channel 5. Later they'd move production to the company's stores. Perhaps the most memorable commercial — besides the spot on top of the Arch — was the ad featuring their mother.

"They wanted to emphasize that we are a family business, so the spot showed my dad and uncle loading a truck with appliances and then banging on the side of the trailer and yelling, 'OK, Mom, take it away.'"

Truth be told, though, mom Slyman never actually appeared in the advertisement. The camera cut away from the cab as the vehicle pulled off the lot.

"Years later we wanted to do a similar commercial — only this time it would be her grandkids telling her to 'take it away,'" says Slyman Jr. "But she wouldn't do it. She was too embarrassed."

Now in its third generation, Slyman Brothers is still making its own commercials featuring Bob Jr., his brother and sister — Jon and Darlene — and their children.

"I don't know if it's a St. Louis thing or what, but people do seem pretty surprised when they come into the store and see that we're actually here — just like in the commercials," says Slyman Jr. "Once in a while they even ask for autographs." — Chad Garrison

Steve Mizerany: "Godfather" of Slap-Schtick
Before Schweig Engel was the King of Credit, Steve Mizerany was the undisputed King of Crazy. "Don't be confused!" he exhorted St. Louisans during the 1970s and '80s, roller-skating through the New Deal store — a TV and appliance outfit owned by him and his childhood friend, Joe Farhatt, located at "4719 Gravois, next to the Bevo Mill!"

He called his salesmen "The Decent Boys." Some associates had nicknames such as "Jelly Roll" and "The Moose." But it was Mizerany — the son of Lebanese immigrants in St. Raymond's parish — who courted the spotlight with his crown, suspenders and loud polyester suits. (He later donated the roller skates to the Missouri History Museum).

He also took to the radio waves. After leaving the New Deal store in 1989, Mizerany did some radio spots for Warehouse of Waterbeds, owned by a pair of nieces. "If you ain't sleepin' on water," he said, "you otter!"

Former Post-Dispatch columnist Elaine Viets once wrote that Mizerany's voice squeaked and squealed "like a pig in a packing plant."

"He was always kind of like that," recalls Jim Winkle, a KPLR producer at the time, who shot some of Mizerany's spots. "But he would get to a new level when the camera was rolling. When it was all done, he might sit down and talk quieter, because his voice was tired from screaming and chasing a monkey around the room."

He also displayed a philanthropic streak. It was Mizerany who put together the Annual St. Louis Police Relief Celebrity Ballgame during the 1970s. Raised funds went to families of officers killed in the line of duty.

A month after his death last April, 14th Ward alderwoman Carol Howard honored him before a full board meeting as "one of the pioneers of TV commercials."

"He was just a character," said Howard, "and a very kind and wonderful businessman." — Nicholas Phillips

Uncle Leonard Lewis: Heavyweight Vendor
I'm the only guy around that can give a girl 50 inches," Uncle Leonard Lewis told Riverfront Times in 1991. "Of TV that is — don't get excited."

Lewis spent much of his 43-year career at Leonard's TV at 6800 Natural Bridge Road in Pine Lawn. When he wasn't selling televisions, he was appearing on them in his trademark Greek fishing cap, alongside athletic greats such as Muhammed Ali, Vince Coleman and Brett Hull (all of whom dwarfed the short businessman).

"That's right, folks," he said in one spot, sidling up to Cardinals pitcher John Tudor. "Come on down to Leonard's TV, and I'll give you a major-league deal on a Panasonic camcorder! It's got auto-focus, remote-control, power zoom, audio dub, omni search, and instant playback, and best of all [pumping fist], the Uncle Leonard big discount!"

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